Most of the people I know in business are just plodding along, working hard, and hoping that their natural talent, with a little random luck, will somehow keep them ahead of the crowd, and let them enjoy their life as well. They don’t realize that you can make your own luck as an entrepreneur, start your own business, and get an unprecedented opportunity to achieve your highest potential.
For example, Bill Gates was a great young programmer, who could have done well in any big company but could never have become one of the richest men in the world if he hadn’t started his own company. Jeff Bezos had a good career on Wall Street but never could have imagined his real potential, until he put his mind to creating Amazon as the largest retailer in the world.
In fact, I’m convinced that most employees in business are not living up to their real potential while feeling overworked and underappreciated. They see others who are perceived as the high performers, and they are not quite sure what might be going wrong. I just finished a new book, “8 Steps to High Performance,” by Marc Effron, which provides some new guidance in this area.
Marc brings years of talent-management experience and science to the picture, which correlates well to my many years of practical experience in big companies as well as small. Here is my selection of his key steps that relate well to my view of starting your own business as a step in realizing your full potential:
- Set big goals to stretch your mind outside the possible. Goals have incredible power to focus and motivate you, and this positions you for higher performance. Bill Gates goal of a computer on every desk and in every home, so revolutionary at that time, no doubt pushed him to go beyond anything he could have accomplished as a great programmer.
- Lead with behaviors that drive your best performance. All behaviors are not created equal, from the standpoint of what you can contribute, and what your company values. We all have personality characteristics that give us a performance advantage in some situations. A startup allows you to create environments that highlight your advantages.
- Accelerate your own growth and learning curve. How many times have you told yourself that you aren’t learning anything new in this job? It’s up to you to ask for more training, more responsibility, or a new opportunity to put you back in learning mode. Top performers often create their own personal experience map to guide their development.
Elon Musk is a great example of an entrepreneur who is always pushing himself into new learning opportunities – moving from PayPal to SpaceX, Tesla electric cars, Hyperloop, to OpenAI. The possibilities are endless, and his performance is mind-boggling.
- Increase the strength of your network of relationships. Who you know does matter in getting things done, and the strength of your relationship with them matters even more. You need a powerful network inside and outside of work. Spend your coffee time and lunches with your highest performing peers, rather than the best office gossips.
Asking for mentoring, and being a mentor are both great ways to build relationships. Bill Gates often refers to his ongoing relationship with Warren Buffett as a mentor, and Mark Zuckerberg counted Steve Jobs as a key mentor. Make every relationship a win-win.
- Identify and seek the environments where you best fit. You have a specific career expectation, personality, and preferences, so it’s up to you to understand where you naturally fit today, and where that fit will be in three to five years with the company. As an entrepreneur, you have the flexibility to create and live in the environment of your choice.
- Avoid the performance fads that suggest easy answers. Being a high performer would be easy if every management guru and seminar could fix you. Many of these fads claim to make your life easier, quickly increase your performance, or give you instant self-confidence, but they are no substitute for you fixing yourself per the points above.
I’m convinced that these steps will help you to focus your efforts where they can have the most impact on your performance and your ultimate potential. The key is separating the factors that you can control (goals, behaviors, networks, and role) from those that you can’t (intelligence, socioeconomic background, etc.). Starting your own business is a great way to make this happen.